New Brunswick

Court sides with former cabinet minister being sued for defamation

Comments by former cabinet minister Bruce Northrup that provoked a defamation lawsuit against him were accurate, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal has ruled.

Ruling ends lawsuit against Bruce Northrup over comments about Windsor Energy's testing

Former natural resources minister Bruce Northrup has successfully appealed a lower court ruling that had favoured Windsor Energy, a company suing him for defamation. (CBC)

Comments by former cabinet minister Bruce Northrup that provoked a defamation lawsuit against him were accurate, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal has ruled, bringing an end to the suit.

Northrup, a Progressive Conservative MLA, has come out successful in an appeal filed last December after a lower court ruling favoured the company that was suing him.

The appeal court found Windsor Energy broke the law in 2011 by conducting seismic testing in Sussex without the municipality's consent. 

Northrup, a Progressive Conservative MLA, declared the same thing shortly after the testing, saying in a news release that the Windsor Energy had violated the Oil and Natural Gas Act. 

The company filed a lawsuit in 2014, claiming Northrup, who was natural resources minister in 2011, had defamed it.

But the appeal court decided Northrup's "characterization of the respondents' conduct as being unlawful was accurate and cannot form the basis of a tort claim."

Disputed wording

Justice Judy Clendening ruled in November 2016 that Windsor Energy had not broken the law. 

Windsor justified its seismic testing, which occurred along Route 1 in Sussex, by saying it had the province's permission to do so, which the Oil and Natural Gas Acts says is required on provincial highways. 

Clendening ruled that in a case where work is being done on a provincial highway within a municipality, only permission from one level is needed.

Fred McElman, Northrup's lawyer, successfully disputed this in the appeal, saying permission from both provincial and municipal levels are needed.

The province was included in Windsor Energy's original lawsuit but was later removed by a judge, who said the lawsuit fell outside the kind of legal action that may be taken against the government.

Northrup has previously said he stood by the comments that resulted in the lawsuit.

"I don't have any regrets about what I did there in that situation," Northrup told the CBC earlier. "Apparently the other side … thinks I did something wrong, but I can go to bed at the end of the day with a clear head."

McElman and Northrup did not reply to requests for comment on the appeal ruling.